A view of the gym floor with lots of equipment

Is this the most stupid question in the history of stupid questions? Finally, I get my chance to trample over all of your unbalanced training programmes!

Before we get down to the cardio vs strength bit, let me remind you there are multiple components of athletic fitness; endurance, strength, power, flexibility, coordination, etc.
Yes, endurance and strength are probably two of the most important ones, but they are all important in their own way.

An athlete may need to specialise in one or two of the components:

But as average people, shouldn’t we be aiming to be as much of an all-rounder as possible? Time and time again in the gym we see people train the same way for years on end, where nothing would benefit them more than a new training focus and a more holistic approach.

There is absolutely nothing better for your body than cross training. Even though weights, HIIT and running form the backbone of my training, I love to throw in the odd sea swim or yoga session. It’s those sessions where all of a sudden I realise how limiting training to lifting heavy weights or running long distances does my body no good.

Switching up exercise reduces boredom, injury risk, and builds a superhero body.

If you are genuinely competing as an athlete your training needs may well be far more specific:

And there may be times when your training will be heavily skewed towards certain types of exercise.

Mo Farah will certainly not be powerlifting the week before he runs an important 10K event. And likewise, a Strong Man contender will not be running a 10K.

But, for your average person:

The thing we should be most concerned about is our health; heart, lungs, muscle mass, fat mass, joint stability, immune system. The list goes on and variety is what will keep all of these health factors in balance.

The pandemic has forced people to find new ways of training:

We all know someone who has changed their training regime and started running or doing online HIIT classes. And in most cases it has been highly beneficial for that individual, who has suddenly realised what their workout was missing. We should be spending a significant amount more of our time training our weaknesses.

I’m not completely naïve to the fact that people train to look good:

So if we want to gain muscle or lose body fat how do we adjust our training?

Gaining muscle might be one of those situations where people think they need to cut the cardio, but do they?

I would argue no; pump up your calorie count and choose sprints and sled work instead of long gruelling runs. That rush of blood brings multiple benefits you will not get from strength alone.

And if you want to lose body fat?

We’ve all seen the cardio bunnies on the treadmillIs followed by back to back HIIT sessions, back to the treadmill.

Is this helping them achieve their fat loss goals?

If you are in a caloric deficit, it’s actually much more important to keep your strength training going and keep sending those anabolic signals to your muscle so you don’t end up losing your muscle instead of fat. And the long hours spent doing cardio in a calorie deficit are likely to be damaging to the immune system and likelihood of injury, not to mention a big waste of time.

Overall though:

Regardless of what exercise you do, exercise ALWAYS makes you look better than not doing exercise.
But it never comes down to strength vs cardio.
Strength= good. Cardio=good.
Just use them in the right way at the right time!
And for most people that’s all the time.
Finding balance is the way to long lasting fitness and health.